3 inconsistencies in Yelp’s review solicitation crackdown

Last month, Yelp doubled down on its war on review solicitation. Yelp has long given mixed signals about whether you can ask customers for reviews on their platform, but they seem to now be unifying their message against review solicitation.
In November, they began sending messages like this to businesses and agencies:

Disclosure: We (Go Fish Digital) received the email above. However, they must not have really done a lot of research to compile this list, as we do help clients with reputation management, but we do not solicit Yelp reviews on their behalf. We don’t do any review solicitation.
This new crackdown is a little disturbing, and in many ways, quite misleading. Here are three ways in which I view this all as quite hypocritical.
1. They LITERALLY told us review solicitation was OK
I once emailed Yelp support and asked them directly if review solicitation was OK. The wording on their website was ambiguous, so I wanted a clear answer

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Google adds price tracking features to flight search, hotel search and Google Trips

Google announced it has added features to help you plan your trips, flights and hotel stays for your vacations or business trips. Many of the features are around how you can save money or track prices for a travel destination. Google has been testing many of these features over the past month, so they may not appear new to some of our readers.
Google is showing new “tips” under the flight search results to show you ways to save money for that trip. Google says it uses “machine learning and statistical analysis of historical flights data, Flights displays tips under your search results, and you can scroll through them to figure out when it’s best to book flights.” Here is a screen shot:

Google may also display a new tip above search results when room rates are higher than usual, or if the area is busier than usual due to a holiday, a music festival, or even a business

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5 local search tactics your competitors probably aren’t using

Local SEO is competitive and fierce. With more and more local businesses vying for the Google local three-pack — and ads and online directories occupying a large percentage of the remaining SERP real estate — your local SEO strategy has to be aggressive.
So, what can you do to outrank your local competitors down the street, especially when you’ve all got the basics down? One approach is to use local SEO tactics that your competitors may not know about or aren’t using. Here are five local SEO tactics you can implement to help get ahead of your competitors.
Google Posts
First, every local business should claim their Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s a must-do. Non-negotiable. If you don’t claim your Google My Business listing, you essentially don’t exist online! (Okay, that’s an exaggeration — but not claiming your GMB listing will significantly diminish your chances of showing up in local search results.)
Of your competitors who claim their Google My Business listing,

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Top 10 local search insights of 2017

Is it just me, or does it seem time flies faster in the local search industry? Another year has gone by, with many changes and developments to boot. Here’s a list of my top 10 insights from 2017:
1. Customer data is the new competitive edge
SMBs often feel at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger companies who benefit from scale at every level, including the purchase of search advertising or other marketing services. Data is helping even the playing field as it emphasizes quality over quantity.
Better data resulting in better targeting means that local businesses experience lower costs, higher conversion rates and greater ROI. And while targeting is not a new strategy, what’s new is the access to and quality of data.
Just as the price of technology drops with increased adoption, data will be cheaper, more accurate and more insightful. The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving growth in data much faster than what could be achieved by

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Google brings local lead generation to Google Assistant and Google Home

Google is bringing new forms of local search to the Google Assistant and Google Home. The company announced it’s working with local home service providers “like HomeAdvisor and Porch.”
On any platform where Google Assistant is available, users will be able to ask for contractors (e.g., “Ok Google find me a plumber”). That initiates a structured interaction which generates a lead or contact with a local service provider.
In the case of IAC-owned HomeAdvisor, which now also owns Angie’s List, users can ask to be connected by phone at the end of the process to a contractor or receive a list of relevant, pre-screened contractors. The following graphic depicts part of the user experience and the structured Q&A that’s used to refine the lead.
This is a highly structured local search and lead-generation experience that will bypass conventional search results (i.e., business listings). Google said the new functionality would be rolling out in the next week or so.

Google itself offers local lead generation for contractors

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Google showing knowledge graph data in local panels

Google has started showing more information about local businesses in some local knowledge panel results. It is implementing this by showing additional tabs of information above the local panel for (a) locations (b) about, and sometimes (c) Google Posts.
Here is a screen shot showing a search for [kfc] which brings up locations for nearby KFCs and an “about” tab for knowledge panel information about the chain.

Sergey Alakov, who first spotted this, said it “looks like Google started combining knowledge panels and local packs in mobile search results for businesses that have a knowledge panel displayed for their brand name search and local presence in the user’s area.”
I cannot consistently bring this up, so it might be Google is testing this feature still or it is currently still rolling out to searchers.
The post Google showing knowledge graph data in local panels appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google’s new #SmallThanks Hub automatically creates digital & printed marketing assets for SMBs

In a move to help SMBs — as well as drive up its verified business listings — Google has launched #SmallThanks Hub, an online resource that creates customized digital marketing content and printed materials based on Google reviews.
“Simply search for your business name on the site, and we’ll automatically create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more — based on the reviews and local love from your customers on Google,” writes Google’s vice president of marketing for Ads & Americas, Lisa Gevelber, on The Keyword blog.
Google says its #SmallThanks Hub, which is rolling out in the US today, is available to any verified Google listing with an address.
“Reviews from your fans are like digital thank you notes, and they’re one of the first things people notice about your business in search results,” writes Gevelber in the announcement. Google shared the following image to highlight how it is repurposing Google reviews into social media posts and

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Survey: 79 percent of consumers believe they’ve seen fake local reviews

BrightLocal is out with its latest local consumer survey about local business reviews. The survey was based on a sample of 1,031 US consumers and covers a wide range of issues.
It affirms the general importance and influence of reviews on consumer decision-making. However, there are a number of nuances and findings I found especially interesting.

The top two considerations for consumers in considering reviews were average star ratings and overall quantity of reviews. In addition, how recent reviews were was important for many. Less important was whether businesses had responded to reviews, although that factor has gained in importance versus last year.
After reading a positive review, fewer consumers said they were going next to the business website versus 2016. This showed a fairly dramatic decline. More people said they were seeking additional reviews to validate the “positive review” they had just read.

About 30 percent of survey respondents said they needed to see at least two to three positive

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Google Maps enables creating & sharing lists on desktop version

Android Police reports Google is now rolling out the ability to create and share lists of places on the desktop version of Google Maps.
This feature originally launched on mobile in February and now seems to be rolling out to the desktop interface. It allows searchers to keep track of saved places and share lists with others via text, email and popular messaging apps.
Here is a screen shot from Android Police showing what happens when you click the “save” button now on the Google local listing in Google Maps:

You can, of course, continue to access your places in the menu on the side of Google Maps to check your saved listings on both desktop and mobile.
It is unclear how long this feature will take to roll out to all users, but it does seem to be rolling out more widely now.
The post Google Maps enables creating & sharing lists on desktop version appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SEO ranking factors for 4 business verticals and what they mean for local businesses

SEO for local business has gone through a number of changes. First, local businesses had to figure out Google’s algorithm so that their websites would appear in search results. Next came local search ranking factors that emphasized location-based factors. Now, it seems Google updates will require a new look at vertical-specific ranking factors.
This isn’t really a third wave of SEO — rather, it’s an evolution of Google’s general ranking factors. Consistent with attaining its goal of providing consumers with search results that best match what they are looking for and content that will be most helpful, Google looks more deeply and more specifically at factors that determine search results.
What this means is that pursuing general factors like “more backlinks” or “matching keywords” simply doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s not to say those factors are no longer relevant; they are. But it’s getting more complicated.
One size no longer fits all
While the debate rages on about the importance of websites

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